Summer Sun & Sunscreen: How to Keep Your Sports Kids Safe from UV Rays

Children playing soccer
via Pixabay

Summertime means that there is an influx of time spent outside and most of our calendars are covered with game times, practices, sports nutrition schedules, and more! With this fun though, can come concern of too much exposure to those UV rays shining down on the kids. Consistent sunburns are not good for long-term skin health and they aren’t a blast to deal with either. So…

How can you keep your sports kids safe? Well, there are 8 tips below that will help you get started. Some are common sense and others you may not even realize can cut down the time in the summer sunshine and keep your little athletes from overexposure.

8 Tips For Keeping Your Sports Kids Safe from UV Rays

Wear Sunscreen (Seriously)!

It remains to be one of the most common-sense tips on the list but also one of the most important. Make sure your children are wearing sunscreen. And it’s imperative that you reapply throughout game time.

Not only does this protectant fight the chance of uncomfortable sunburn and heat exhaustion, but it also helps to fight the possibility of melanoma later on in life. A good place to start is to fight sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 or higher (SPF 30 for those with fairer skin). Make sure it is applied at least half an hour before they’re out in the sun and then make sure to reapply every three hours for optimum protection.

Hydrate Consistently

Child keeping hydrated with water

Another common sense thought but seriously important is to make sure your athletes are staying hydrating, especially during the summer sunshine. The more they sweat, the more they need to replenish their systems.

One of the biggest tips out there is to make sure that your child is hydrating before they hit the field. It’s not only important that they are drinking water during play, but make sure they are filling up before the first droplet of sweat hits their brow.

Remember, sweat cools the body, without enough hydration, the body won’t be able to stay balanced and keep itself from overheating. If you need more reasons to drink water, we’ve got 7 of them for you here.

Find the Shade (Dugouts, Hats, Tents, Umbrellas, Oh My!)

Anytime there’s a moment to spare, find the shade. This may be the dugout, parent-made tent, umbrellas, concession area, etc. It’s also imperative that hats are more than just a possible piece of a uniform – they help to protect your athlete from harsh rays. Utilize them!

Utilize Breaks – Go Indoors!

Moreover, just as much as you should request that your child utilize the shade when off the fields, it’s important that breaks are also utilized as well. This is a time to find shade, cool down, rehydrate, and grab some quick carbs to keep up the energy for the rest of the game times ahead.

Invest in UV-Protectant Clothing

Look into investing in some UV-protectant clothing (yes, it’s a thing). They come in a variety of athletic styles and colors – and for all sizes!

These pieces are designed specifically for blocking ultraviolet rays from damaging the skin. Pair these tops and bottoms with sunscreen and you won’t have to fret about potential harm from too much time spent out in the sun.

Eyes, Ears, Scalp, Hands, & Feet!

Make sure you give each of these body parts proper protection – as they are the most forgotten when applying sunscreen.

The eyes should be accompanied by sunglasses. Your child is still growing, and that means their eyes are particularly sensitive to those ultraviolet rays, especially lighter pupils.

And yes, sunscreen can and should be applied to the ears, parts of the scalp, hands, and feet too! These parts of the body can all develop melanoma – so apply and reapply just like you would on arms, legs, or face.

Include Bug Spray

Bug spray being sprayed on a child's knee

This may be the less likely tip to join this particular list, but it deserves a spot! Not only should you be using bug spray when your kids are out and about outside – it’s imperative that you know how to use them and use them while also applying sunscreen.

Do not use products that combine the two needs. Instead, use sunscreen first and then apply your bug spray. This gives the first layer of protection and the ability to reapply sunscreen later in the day.

Be Aware of the Signs (of Heat Exhaustion & Stroke)

Even if you are taking every other sun protection precaution, everyone should still be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and stroke. Heat exhaustion or stroke can happen to anyone, even kids, especially when they have spent a lot of time in the sun and haven’t received the proper amounts of rest or hydration.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Nauseousness or vomiting
  • Elevated body temperature of 100-104 degrees
  • Headache, fatigue, dizziness, or fainting
  • Increased sweating or thirst
  • Muscle cramping
  • Cool or clammy skin

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Nauseousness or vomiting
  • Absence of sweating
  • Possible seizures
  • Rapid heartbeat, not able to catch a breath
  • Dangerously high body temperature of 104 degrees or higher
  • Confusion, dizziness, severe headache, or fainting

If you witness any of these signs in your athlete, your child may be experiencing heat exhaustion, which is the first step toward stroke. Steps to help ease the symptoms include:

  • Find a cool space, preferably indoors in the air conditioning
  • Encourage hydration but use liquids such as Gatorade that include salt
  • Apply cooling towels to the wrists, back of the neck, and back of the knees
  • *If heat stroke is suspected, call 911 and begin to rapidly cool your athlete by immersing them in a cold tub.